MANILA, Philippines—The 30th Southeast Asian Games has served as the coming-out party of setter Joshua Retamar.
The youngest player on the Philippine team at just 19 years old, Retamar has been brilliant in the squad's two victories so far in the men's volleyball competition. In his first game, he scored 6 of his 11 points off blocks, and had 15 excellent sets in a 29-27, 25-17, 25-17 sweep of Cambodia.
He followed it up with four points and 17 excellent sets in the Philippines' 25-20, 25-21, 25-12 sweep of Vietnam that sent his team to the semifinals.
Retamar's teammates are not surprised with how he is performing, least of all national team mainstay Bryan Bagunas. The two played together at National University in UAAP Season 81, when Retamar — then a rookie — helped Bagunas graduate as a champion.
"Sa akin naman, talagang mataas ang expectation ko sa bata na 'yun eh," said Bagunas. "Kasama ko siya noong nag-champion kami sa ASEAN University Games."
"Talagang doon nakita ko 'yung attitude na palaban talaga. Kaya ngayong SEA Games, talagang mataas 'yung expectation ko sa kanya, at talagang lalaban siya dito," he added.
It also helps that Retamar is receiving advice from a five-time UAAP Most Valuable Player. Marck Espejo, making his return to the national team after missing the SEA Games in 2015, said he makes it a point to encourage Retamar before every game.
"Roommate ko kasi siya so parang sinasabihan ko siya na parang, 'Ikaw 'yung setter, ikaw 'yung magdadala sa amin sa team, kasi nga ikaw 'yung parang second coach sa loob ng court'," said Espejo.
For the former Ateneo superstar, Retamar's youth is a non-factor. "Kung alam mong tama ka, bigyan mo kami ng instructions," Espejo said of his message to their setter.
Retamar will be tested again on Friday, as the Philippines takes on Indonesia to determine which side gets the top seed in Group A. Both teams are already through to the semifinals, but the winner of the match likely avoids defending champion Thailand in the next phase.
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